With the United Kingdom scheduled to officially advise the European Union (EU) on March 29 of its intention to leave, triggering two years of Brexit negotiations, Caribbean tourism officials recently undertook a mission to the European capital of Brussels.
The trip included a series of meetings with senior parliamentarians and officials in the European Parliament, the European Commission, the CARIFORUM ambassadors and other key stakeholders and influencers.
The mission, led by secretary general of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) Hugh Riley, in collaboration with president of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Karolin Troubetzkoy, was held in recognition of the importance of engaging and strengthening relations with both the U.K. and the EU and to glean a better understanding of how this change will impact the Caribbean tourism industry, its engagement with political leaders, and its access to potential funding, according to CTO news release.
“We recognize that while the Caribbean tourism sector has had its successes – and we are certainly proud to celebrate those successes – we are also aware of the challenges which continue to stymie our growth,” Riley said in the news release. “We are aware that we have friends and willing partners in Europe who share our conviction that the future success of tourism in the Caribbean is key to creating new jobs, growth and prosperity in the region and we look forward to continue to build on the already strong relationships we have in the U.K., France, Spain, the Netherlands and with the EU institutions.”
Among the many areas of interest for the CTO were access to funding for tourism development programs under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) and future U.K.-Caribbean bilateral funding programs.
The mission, which included Shamfa Cudjoe, the minister of tourism for Trinidad and Tobago, and Marie-Line Lesdema, the first vice president of the Martinique Tourism Committee, was able to determine that funds for private sector growth programs in the tourism sector continue to be available, but that there was ever more competition for the funds; the most successful projects would be those which demonstrated their ability to deliver demonstrable development benefits.
The Caribbean team also discussed with the European Commission's Directorate-General for International Cooperation and Development (DG DEVCO) initiatives to support environmentally sustainable tourism within local communities, along with training and education, including new possible partnerships for tourism training initiatives.
“Collaboratively, the CTO and the CHTA are always looking for avenues to maximize the economic development potential of the tourism industry to reduce the region’s unemployment, enhance our competitive position and bolster the Caribbean’s financial security. Our meetings in Brussels were an important step toward ensuring the prosperity of the region and continuity of private and public sector partnerships within the U.K. and EU.”